June 8th, 2014
04:37 PM ET
9 years ago

U.S. official: Sgt. Bergdahl wants to be called private first class

(CNN) - U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was promoted while held prisoner by the Taliban, said he wants to be recognized by his old rank, according to a senior U.S. official.

"In his mind, he's a Pfc," the official told CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr on Sunday.

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Now in the beginning of the lengthy road to reintegration after his exchange for five Taliban commanders previously held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, Bergdahl is letting those around him know he still feels like a Pfc, regardless of his in-absentia promotion. The U.S. official could not confirm to CNN whether Bergdahl has resumed wearing his uniform but added that doing so is part of the standard reintegration process.

The Pentagon issued a brief statement Sunday, declining to comment on Bergdahl's recovery process beyond saying the Defense Department continues to evaluate Bergdahl, provide him with medical and reintegration care and remains intent on conducting a comprehensive review of the circumstances surrounding his disappearance.

"Our focus remains on providing him with the care he needs," Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement.

The few details emerging around the soldier's recovery after his five years in captivity are a prelude to what's shaping up to be a week defined by confrontation over President Barack Obama and his administration's move to exchange Bergdahl for five Taliban hardliners previously determined too high a risk to release.

The White House executed the deal without consulting or notifying Congress, something various critics of the high-stakes exchange have since labeled an illegal action that violates the National Defense Authorization Act. The Oval Office has defended its decision, citing Bergdahl's rapidly declining health and concerns he could be killed should news of the negotiations leak.

The senior U.S. official cited a proof of life video reportedly shown to senators in a classified intelligence briefing on Thursday as evidence of Bergdahl's worsening condition. The official said the determination, based on that December video, that Bergdahl's health was failing represented the best assessment of the intelligence community at the time. The source also brushed aside any assertion that politics played a role in the White House has sought to characterize Bergdahl's condition.

Senators who attended the briefing left with mixed opinions, with some saying Bergdahl looked sick while others speculated he was drugged in the video in question.

On the potential threat to Bergdahl's life, the official claimed the timeline for the swap accelerated once the agreement was made, hastened by fears that "other Taliban elements might kill him." Senior national security officials were briefed on these developments between the time the Obama administration struck a deal with the Taliban and Bergdahl's handover to American forces at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

All these claims are bound to be put under intense scrutiny this week, with multiple congressional briefings on the docket for defense officials.

Though it's still unclear if they will be shown the December proof of life video shown to senators last week, all House members will receive a closed-door briefing from White House, Pentagon and State Department officials at 5 p.m. Monday. On Tuesday, administration officials will hold another session with the upper chamber, briefing members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the details of the video and their justifications for bypassing congressional input.

The real fireworks, however, are expected to come on Wednesday when Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is scheduled to testify before the House Armed Services Committee.

Filed under: Bowe Bergdahl
soundoff (110 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    pfc to sgt is two promotions. you get promoted from pfc to corporal and then from corporal to sgt. was he promoted twice?

    June 8, 2014 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  2. ken s

    you get promoted from pfc to corporal and then from corporate to sgt, so that is two promotions. in nearly 5 years did he receive two promotions while captive?

    June 8, 2014 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  3. Cindy

    Was Bush Sr. A traitor for ejecting from his burning plane and leaving his men to burn to death in the plane? Was Bush Jr.a traitor for going AWOL? Was Prescott Bush a traitor when he helped fund Hitler and the third Reich? Did soldiers constantly say mean things to them? Oh, maybe not because they were in the Bush family and oh, also Republicans! Double standards once again!

    June 8, 2014 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  4. 1776usa2016

    This guy's head is probably all screwed up after being kept in that box.

    If this guy wants to be called Pfc I think for now we should call him Pfc.

    It may take some time for this guy to even think straight.


    June 8, 2014 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  5. smako

    Yeah, I don't see a problem with that, if he doesn't want to be called a hero I'm good with that too. If they don't want him to re up or give him an honorable discharge hey, who am I to disagree?
    If he wants to run for president on the democratic ticket he will probably win.

    June 8, 2014 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  6. ohoyotohbi

    I understand we have a system of checks and balances (however flawed it may be, we have it) though, at the end of the day, is not the President still the Commander in Chief? He wanted this guy home. Done.

    June 8, 2014 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  7. Jack Alex

    He's going to be making small rocks from big rocks in Levenworth by the time we're done with Private Yellow-Belly.

    June 8, 2014 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  8. dsangiovanni

    GOP still trying to do what they do best.... Nothing about jobs...lShame on them..

    June 8, 2014 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  9. KA

    You seriously don't understand promotions while being a Prisoner of War, SR????

    POWs that are captured on duty are afforded the ranks they would have had the opportunity to achieve had they not been captured. POWs serving their country, and captured, are busy staying alive while missing every aspect of their lives – families, kids, homes, careers – in this case it is muddy but the rule is there for the majority of POWs who are captured through no fault of their own.

    As a veteran who has served in the gulf, twice, this seems common sense – maybe to those sitting on the couch in America it isn't as clear.

    June 8, 2014 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  10. Bob

    I have no problem with exchange But like any suspect lets get on with the investigation and then if warranted arrest and trail. NO need to wait and investigation should be about done since 5 years has passed. The only thing left is to talk to him.

    June 8, 2014 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  11. Dan Taylor

    Am I the only person questioning why a known deserter - certainly the Army confirmed he deserted in the investigation following his absence - was promoted TWICE while in "whereabouts unknown" (*not* POW) status.

    June 8, 2014 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  12. Mike

    Lots of minds are made up before the investigation has begun.

    No one is lionizing this guy, but the right is trying to assassinate him and his family. Fox and the GOP will be proud when somebody literally does so.

    June 8, 2014 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  13. freedom

    This guy says he hates America. No military titles for him. He denounced his position when he left his post and expressed his hatred toward America – and embraced the Taliban.

    June 8, 2014 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  14. Dan5404

    Anything posted on this situation is pure speculation. Rumors, propaganda, etc. are not facts. Until they are actually known, no one, including the soldiers of his platoon, knows what happened during those 5 yearss. But it does help fill out talk show time.

    June 8, 2014 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  15. Bill Davis

    Promotion, this guy deserves a demotion, so his fellow soldiers say.

    Only ones spinning this is Obama,

    June 8, 2014 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  16. heathen

    Promotion while in pow status is standard practice, look it up and quit politicizing. Whether we agree with it or not an american pow was recovered, any charges are up to the military.

    June 8, 2014 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  17. Chris-E...al

    Both sides sucking about right now . Time will tell . Back off and stand down stupids . This is out of hand the law was broke again . But n0 news here ?

    June 8, 2014 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  18. sandiego1969

    Give Bergdahl his promotion...put him in an upper bunk at Levenworth for the next 30 years.

    June 8, 2014 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  19. puddintane

    lol Master Obama will decide what Bergdahls rank will be. If Master Obama decides he is a general, he is a general.

    June 8, 2014 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  20. Anthony Talbert

    He wants to be called PFC. Good! His promotions were the standard ones given to people who were POW"s, but, since it would appear that his status was not really that of a POW his promotions should be ignored.

    June 8, 2014 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  21. Rose Garcia

    Under what military order is someone promoted during enemy captivity? So, if your are captured by our enemy than you get an immediate promotion and all the perks associated with it? Well captivity isn't so bad!!!!!!!! I wonder why more soldiers don't defect? Oh, yes, a true soldier never defects!

    June 8, 2014 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  22. Thomas

    Why is the republican mind set so eager to judge , to sentence a person before they are given a right to speak and tell there side of the story.

    GOP bullying , The New American Century .

    These two wars that lasted over ten years have brought more harm to us as a united country then good .

    June 8, 2014 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  23. J.V.Hodgson

    This was a FOP and therefore clearly in enemy territory to some extent., i.e on the front line. Last I heard when one goes missing the local LT or sergeant will at least do re-con to try and find the Gone missing. After that initial failure amore comprehensive search would require Higher up approval.
    This nonsense too about not knowing what was going on Even Mc Cain in February on CNN knew that 5 Taliban were up for grabs for the exchange ( AC 360 interview) so Feinstein et al are pontificating only, or playing politics or both re prior approval or even worse we did not know!!
    Also until its properly investigated by the military will people please stop saying he is a deserter, he is a normal serving soldier who has spent 5years in Taliban captivity and he is an alleged deserter until he is and if found guilty at a military court martial. most say not leaving anyone behind overrides what's done even if he is ultimate proven to be a deserter.

    June 8, 2014 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  24. muttmutt

    In Response to SR:
    Feinstein reported to have said " Also, one thing I'm curious about is how he was promoted while being held. In other words, whether it was his fault or not, he was not on the job. So how do you get promoted when you aren't doing anything to earn a promotion?"

    Well first the promotions were likely due to time in grade / time in service.
    And secondly, being a POW in enemy hands is definitely considered still being on the job.
    The promotions would mostly affect his back pay, however if he is indeed found guilty of deserting his post he would almost certainly forfeit the pay and the promotions.

    June 8, 2014 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  25. joedog

    The Obama spin machine and its sycophants in the media are at it again.

    June 8, 2014 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
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